SEC in Fantasy, Week 15: After playoff elimination, what's next for Cam Newton?

Newton's 2020 had its great moments, but there weren't enough to keep the Patriots in contention. Now the future looks murky for the Auburn legend.

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“Unacceptable.”

That is the word Cam Newton used to describe this year for himself and the New England Patriots, who were eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2008 after losing to the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. The 22-12 defeat came as the result of another poor performance by the Newton-led offense, which failed to reach the end zone.

Its fate was sealed when the Patriots, down 10, decided to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a 43-yard field goal that would have pulled them within a single score with just over a minute to go in the game. Instead, Miami brought six, including a middle linebacker straight through the A-gap on a blitzing beeline, and Newton was sacked before even starting his throwing motion.

With his one-year, incentive-laden contract now officially expiring at the end of Week 17, it would make sense for Belichick to give second-year backup Jarrett Stidham a two-game trial run to evaluate where the organization stands in the quarterback room moving forward.

Bill Belichick has seemed to leave the door open to making that change since the final whistle on Sunday, answering quarterback questions in multiple interviews in his patently cryptic manner with a “we’ll see” and “it could be a possibility.”

And if that sack was the last snap Cam ever received as a member of the team, who could blame them? He simply did not show enough to earn a long-term, starting quarterback deal — especially now, heading into his age-32 season. Sunday was Newton’s sixth game of the year without scoring a touchdown. His throwing struggles have been extremely pronounced at different times of the season.

Even without turning the ball over on Sunday, his passing touchdown-to-interception ratio is an unsightly 5:10 — less passing touchdowns than Joe Flacco, who has only started four games this season, and more interceptions than Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes combined. He is currently 25th in the NFL in passing yards. Even all of his good work as a rusher has been largely muted in the last month, going without a rushing touchdown in four of his last five weeks.

But what chance did he really have? It was always going to be an uphill climb for this Patriots team. A league-high eight early COVID opt-outs weakened an already talent-starved offensive unit. Speaking of, Newton tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this season and visibly struggled in the two games immediately following his return. How much of a toll the virus took on him is still a legitimate question.

As for his supporting cast; replacing both starting tackles from last year’s team has been a nightmare for the offensive line, which has struggled to keep its quarterback(s) upright all season. And one quick glance at the injury report or wide receiver and tight end depth charts would give Cam and all of his supporters all the excuses they could ever need.

There is certainly a case to be made that this team overperformed to even remain alive in the postseason chase for this long. His exceptional play in Week 2 and Week 11 (the only two games he threw for 300+ yards) ended in narrow defeat. It is more than fair to say that if he had any help in those two games, like just one more play(er), the tone would be very different.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality in which we sit today. They lost those two games and too many more to be going to the playoffs. But Newton is not reaching into the excuse jar, instead saying in a social media post after the game that he did not live up to the standard this season but wants to be a part of the solution going forward.

Whether he gets that chance or not will remain to be seen. So much is a mystery from here, and the Patriots seem to be heading into an offseason that resembles the one it just came out of in August.

The highs and lows of Newton’s 2020-21 season have been well documented in these articles throughout the season. The highs have left us asking “How did the rest of the League let this happen?” And the lows have forced Cam to have to answer questions about possible retirement.

On Monday, he faced that same question again on his radio show. His answer: “I still have a lot of football left. I still want to play football. I have the urge to be better. After putting out this film? Hey, c’mon now. I definitely can’t go out like this.”

With the final Newton story behind us, let’s review the fantasy performances of the rest of the conference’s alumni, which included some spectacular quarterback play, a nasty stiff arm, and a few tightening All-SEC positional races.

Alabama

QB: Jalen Hurts (Eagles) - 37.8

RB: Derrick Henry (Titans) - 24.2

RB: Josh Jacobs (Raiders) - 18.9

WR: Calvin Ridley (Falcons) - 27.3

WR: Cam Sims (Team) - 5.1

TE: Irv Smith Jr. (Vikings) – 5.2

FLEX: Kenyan Drake (Cardinals) - 5

TOTAL = 123.5

In just his second career start, Jalen Hurts put on a show — throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 63 yards and another score. While Carson Wentz reportedly made it clear he is not interested in staying in Philadelphia as a backup, Hurts put on a dazzling performance in an effort to keep the starting job for the long haul. Subtractors were present: three fumbles (none lost), six sacks, and 20 incompletions. But overall, a shining improvement.

The Titans offense took advantage of facing the cowardly Lions defense in Week 15, scoring 30+ points for a fifth consecutive week. Henry carried the ball 24 times for 147 rushing yards and a touchdown, adding two catches for five receiving yards and a two-point conversion. Also another nasty stiff arm:

In a tough Thursday night loss for the Raiders, Josh Jacobs took his 26 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 38 yards.

For the fifth time this season, Calvin Ridley stepped up in the absence of Julio Jones. Week 15 featured a career day from Ridley, setting his highest totals in targets (14), receptions (10), and receiving yards (163). Rounding out the Tide’s pass-catching performances: Cam Sims caught five of his eight targets for 26 yards, while Irv Smith Jr. caught three passes for 37 yards.

The often touchdown-dependent Kenyan Drake suffered from a lack of volume and, you guessed it, touchdowns. 10 rushes for just 26 rushing yards coupled with two catches for 14 receiving yards made for his worst fantasy performance since Week 7. However, the Cardinals win keeps them a pace ahead in the NFC Wild Card.

Arkansas

QB: Brandon Allen (Bengals) - INJ

RB: Jonathan Williams (Lions) - OUT

TE: Hunter Henry (Chargers) – 15

FLEX: Jeremy Sprinkle (Football Team) – 0

TOTAL = 15

If you recall, we had our first projection in this slot last week: Five catches for 63 yards for Hunter Henry in the Thursday night matchup against the Raiders.

Hunter Henry’s box score: Seven targets, five catches, 65 yards, and a touchdown.

So close.

Auburn

QB: Cam Newton (Patriots) – 12.2

RB: Peyton Barber (Football Team) – 6.5

RB: Kerryon Johnson (Lions) - 0

WR: Darius Slayton (Giants) – 9.4

TE: C.J. Uzomah (Bengals) - IR

FLEX: Chandler Cox (Dolphins) - OUT

K: Daniel Carlson (Raiders) – 9

TOTAL = 37.1

While Kerryon Johnson was mysteriously left without a single touch for the second time this season, Peyton Barber continued to do his job for the Washington Football Team. This week, his low volume, battering ram role resulted in five yards and a one-yard touchdown.

The Giants’ target-leader for the second week in a row, Darius Slayton reeled in four of the nine Colt McCoy passes thrown his direction for a total of 74 yards. Those were Slayton’s most receptions and yards in more than a month. With all four teams still alive in the chase for the NFC East crown, the Giants are going to need to link up more often with their deep threat in order to catch Barber’s Team and secure the division title.

Perfect on each of his tries for the seventh consecutive week, Daniel Carlson hit all three of his extra points and converted a pair of 23-yard field goals to bookend the Raiders scoring in an overtime loss to the Chargers on Thursday night. The Raiders’ playoff chances took a sharp blow and now one of the most reliable kickers in the league this season will likely be left out of the postseason.

Florida

QB: Jeff Driskel (Broncos) - OUT

RB: La’Mical Perine (Jets) – IR

WR: Demarcus Robinson (Chiefs) - 3.7

WR: Brandon Powell (Falcons) - 1.5

TE: Jordan Reed (49ers) - 8.8

FLEX: Trey Burton (Colts) - 1.3

TOTAL = 15.3

Jordan Reed’s first quarter touchdown was enough on its own to make him this week’s top Gator. Two catches on five targets for 18 yards was almost an exact replica of his performance last week, but as we always say in fantasy football: the six-pointers make all the difference.

This week, the Florida fantasy change comes from Demarcus Robinson’s two catches for 27 yards (though his biggest play was a disastrous punt return), Brandon Powell and his pair of grabs for five yards, and Trey Burton’s solo eight-yard reception.

Georgia

QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions) – 15.3

RB: D’Andre Swift (Lions) - 20.2

RB: Nick Chubb (Browns) - 13.6

WR: Mecole Hardman (Chiefs) - 9.2

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) - 5

TE: Charlie Woerner (49ers) - 0

FLEX: Sony Michel (Patriots) - 8.7

K: Rodrigo Blankenship (Colts) - 11

TOTAL = 83

Suddenly cleared to play after not taking a single first-team practice rep all week, Matthew Stafford was replaced on the Lion’s second drive of the fourth quarter after completing 22 of his 33 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. His fellow Detroit Dawg fared a bit better, scoring two touchdowns on the ground — totaling 67 rushing yards and four catches for 15 receiving yards.

Nick Chubb extended his rushing touchdown streak to four games, though the Giants’ defense did well to limit his damage to just 50 rushing yards and 16 receiving yards. He should get a softer matchup in the same stadium next week against the now-hot New York Jets.

Three catches for 22 yards and a third-quarter touchdown was the work of Chiefs’ wideout Mecole Hardman. A.J. Green caught two of his three Monday night targets for 40 yards in the Bengals’ shocking upset of the Steelers. Sony Michel ran the ball 10 times for a solid 74 yards and added a catch for eight more against the stout Miami Dolphins defense.

Rodrigo Blankenship hit field goals from 53 and 35 yards away, and converted all three of his extra point opportunities in the Colts 27-20 win over the Texans.

Kentucky

RB: Benny Snell Jr. (Steelers) – 18.2

RB/WR: Lynn Bowden Jr. (Dolphins) - 7.6

WR: Randall Cobb (Texans) – IR

TOTAL = 25.8

The result was far from what the Steelers had in mind, but Benny Snell had a heck of a Monday night. Filling in for an inactive James Conner, Snell racked up 18 carries for 84 yards on the ground, a touchdown, and three catches for another 23 yards — all of which made for his best fantasy output of the year. With Conner likely to return next week against the Colts, it was likely a short-lived moment in the spotlight. But Snell saved the struggling Steelers from an even worse showing and proved again that he can do more than just the short work if need be.

The target and receptions leader for the Dolphins in Week 15 was Lynn Bowden Jr. Though all short-yardage passes, LBJ hauled in six of his seven targets for 37 yards and added this hard-earned nine-yard trick-play carry, which might have been a designed pass:

LSU

QB: Joe Burrow (Bengals) – IR

RB: Leonard Fournette (Buccaneers) - 20

RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs) - 8.8

WR: Jarvis Landry (Browns) - 15.6

WR: Russell Gage (Falcons) - 15.3

TE: Foster Moreau (Raiders) - 2.7

FLEX: Justin Jefferson (Vikings) - 14.4

TOTAL = 76.8

For the fourth time this season, three former LSU wide receivers had double-digit fantasy performances in the same week. For the fourth consecutive week, the trio of Landry, Gage, and Jefferson were the top Tiger wideouts.

We start with Sunday night’s seven-catch, 61-yard performance from Jarvis Landry that included a nice goal-to-go touchdown catch just before the half. After having zero touchdown catches in the first 11 weeks of the season, Juice has had a touchdown reception in three of the last four weeks.

Russell Gage caught half of his 10 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. Justin Jefferson eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the sixth time, taking his eight catches 104 yards in the Vikings defeat to the Bears.

Ronald Jones Jr.’s COVID/Reserve listing left Leonard Fournette as the feature Buccaneer back for Sunday’s game against Atlanta. 14 carries for 49 yards and a couple of one-yard touchdown plunges in the third quarter went along with three catches for 16 yards to help Fournette lead the way in the Bucs comeback win over the Falcons, which strengthened their playoff hopes.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be missing the rest of the regular season after a lower-body injury forced him out of Sunday afternoon’s Game of the Week against the Saints. CEH’s shortened day consisted of 14 carries, 79 rushing yards, and a four-yard catch.

Mississippi State

QB: Dak Prescott (Cowboys) – IR

TE: Jordan Thomas (Patriots) - OUT

TOTAL = 0

Another gutter ball.

Missouri

QB: Drew Lock (Broncos) – 11

TOTAL = 11

The Denver offense had a really tough time on Saturday. Drew Lock finished the game 20-of-32 through the air for 132 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 37 yards and losing a fumble. He will look to change his fortunes against the Chargers in Week 16.

Ole Miss

RB: Jordan Wilkins (Colts) – 0

WR: A.J. Brown (Titans) – 12.9

WR: D.K. Metcalf (Seahawks) – 6.8

TE: Dawson Knox (Bills) - 10.6

FLEX: Evan Engram (Giants) - 6.6

TOTAL = 36.9

Once again, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf had very similar days: Brown had five catches for 44 yards and Metcalf had five catches for 43 yards. The difference? One of A.J.’s receptions was a two-yard touchdown.

Dawson Knox caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ 48-point explosion against the Denver Broncos. It was the third straight week Knox beat out Evan Engram for the top Ole Miss tight end spot — even though Engram had more catches (4) and yards (46).

Touchdowns are the difference.

South Carolina

RB: Mike Davis (Panthers) – 7.1

RB: Rico Dowdle (Cowboys) – 1.1

WR: Alshon Jeffery (Eagles) - 7.3

WR: Damiere Byrd (Patriots) - 3.9

TE: Hayden Hurst (Falcons) - 10.1

FLEX: Jared Cook (Saints) - 3.9

K: Ryan Succop (Buccaneers) - 7

TOTAL = 40.4

After going seven weeks without a touchdown, Hayden Hurst was the only Gamecock alum to get into the end zone in Week 15. He totaled four catches for 21 yards to go with the seven-yard touchdown pull. Alshon Jeffery was a headache for the Cardinals’ secondary on Sunday, drawing multiple pass interference flags and connecting with Jalen Hurts on a pair of deep routes for 24 and 39 yards.

Closing out the pass-catching performances for South Carolina: three catches and 24 yards for Damiere Byrd and two catches for 29 yards for Jared Cook. Neither are fantasy dependable.

Mike Davis carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards, and totaled a season-low in receiving yards with just two. For a player as dependent on receptions and touchdowns as Mike Davis, it was a rough week for his fantasy owners after getting an All-SEC performance and getting a soft DvP matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Washington and New Orleans are left on the schedule, a tough order for Mike D even if McCaffrey misses the final two games.

Ryan Succop nailed his lone field goal try in the fourth quarter, a 27-yarder that tied the game for the first time since the scoring began, and made all four of his extra point attempts in the comeback win over the Falcons.

Tennessee

QB: Joshua Dobbs (Steelers) - OUT

RB: Alvin Kamara (Saints) – 16.9

RB: Jakob Johnson (Patriots) – 0

WR: Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears) – 1.2

WR: Marquez Callaway (Saints) - IR

TE: Luke Stocker (Falcons) - 3.1

FLEX: Jason Witten (Raiders) - 0

TOTAL = 21.2

With the return of Drew Brees and Mike Thomas hitting the IR, Alvin Kamara became the talk of fantasy football experts towards the end of the week. Opinions differed greatly as to whether Kamara would be able to return to the same form he enjoyed before his quarterback’s gruesome body injuries. A fourth quarter touchdown catch saved him from performing way below his bullish projections. Still, less than 100 scrimmage yards on 14 touches (11 rushes, 54 yards | 3 receptions, 40 yards) is a good bit shy of what we thought we were getting. After scoring over 20 fantasy points in five of his first nine games (including three for 30+), AK has failed to break that 20-point threshold in any of his five games since.

Texas A&M

QB: Ryan Tannehill (Titans) – 37

RB: Trayveon Williams (Bengals) - 0.8

RB: Cullen Gillaspia (Texans) - IR

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – 14

WR: Christian Kirk (Cardinals) - 4.8

TE: Jace Sternberger (Packers) – INJ

FLEX: Josh Reynolds (Rams) – 1.9

K: Randy Bullock (Bengals) - OUT

TOTAL = 58.5

Tannethrill lived up to his nickname in the Titans’ home finale against the Lions. Through the air, the former A&M receiver-turned-gunslinger threw three touchdown passes, finishing 21-of-27 for 273 yards. On the ground, he carried the ball three times for 21 yards and two more touchdowns. Though it was easily his best fantasy performance of the season, Hurts’ ground game edged him out for the top spot in the conference. Let’s do the Tannehill vs Mahomes tweet:

Though he went without a touchdown catch in consecutive games for just the second time this season, Mike Evans broke the century mark in receiving yards for the first time since the first weekend in October. He had six catches for 110 yards, and only one went for less than 10.

Vanderbilt

RB: Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Buccaneers) - 0.4

RB: Khari Blasingame (Titans) – 0

WR: Trent Sherfield (Cardinals) - 0

TOTAL = 0.4

VANDY ON THE BOARD

FANTASY STANDINGS THROUGH WEEK 15

1. Alabama: 1459.2 (last week - 1)

2. Georgia: 1135 (2)

3. LSU: 1059 (3)

4. Texas A&M: 821.4 (4)

5. South Carolina: 672.6 (5)

6. Auburn: 619.6 (6)

7. Ole Miss: 599.9 (7)

8. Tennessee: 415.4 (8)

9. Florida: 355.6 (9)

10. Missouri: 179.6 (10)

11. Kentucky: 176.2 (12)

12. Mississippi State: 151.9 (11)

13. Arkansas: 151.1 (13)

14. Vanderbilt: 20.4 (14)

WEEK 15 ALL-SEC FANTASY TEAM

QB: Jalen Hurts (Alabama/Eagles) – 37.8

RB: Derrick Henry (Alabama/Titans) - 24.2

RB: Leonard Fournette (LSU/Buccaneers) - 20

WR: Calvin Ridley (Alabama/Falcons) - 27.3

WR: Jarvis Landry (LSU/Browns) - 15.6

TE: Hunter Henry (Arkansas/Chargers) - 15

FLEX: Josh Jacobs (Alabama/Raiders) - 18.9

K: Rodrigo Blankenship (Georgia/Colts) - 11

TOTAL = 169.8

Jalen Hurts’ explosive fantasy performance in Week 15 not only topped the SEC charts, it led the entire NFL. His first All-SEC caliber day was certainly one he will remember.

Derrick Henry has made it to the all-conference list in four of the last five weekends, seven overall. Though there is still a hot race for the conference’s Player of the Year (total points), Henry is just one weekend away from being the 2020-21 All-SEC List Leader. Joining him in the backfield this week is Leonard Fournette, who turned in his second honors-worthy week — his only other coming in Week 2.

Jarvis Landry is back on the list for the third time in four weeks after not topping the conference’s wideout performances in any of the first 11 weeks of the season. Also no stranger to the All-SEC team is Calvin Ridley, who is back for his fifth time after a huge day against the Buccaneers.

Josh Jacobs and Hunter Henry are back after extended stays away from all-conference lists. Henry is now tied with Jared Cook for most weeks featured among tight ends. Those two will have two weekends to break that tie and bring home a positional List Leader crown.

Finally, it was the fifth time Rodrigo Blankenship outkicked the conference’s alums. This week’s 11-point outing makes HotRod a near-lock for Kicker of the Year.

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